The healing effects of honey

Alternative

In Brief

September 13, 2007

With the rise in cases of diabetes, more and more people will suffer from foot ulcers that do not heal and may end up needing amputation because treatment of chronic wounds is so difficult.

Today, an alternative treatment based on a remedy used since antiquity is getting increased attention -- smearing wounds with honey.

Manuka Honey, a medicinal honey harvested by beekeepers in New Zealand, is now being marketed for application on wounds. In June, Health Canada approved it under the brand name Medihoney for use as a wound dressing and antimicrobial. In July, the Food and Drug Administration cleared it for use on wounds and burns in the U.S.

There are several possible ways that honey helps wounds heal, researchers say.

Honey, rich in sugars, provides a hyperosmotic environment -- meaning it will suck the water out of bacteria, killing them.

Honey is antibacterial in other ways, too. During its creation, worker bees add an enzyme -- glucose oxidase -- to the nectar they've collected. When the honey is applied to a wound, it is exposed to oxygen in the air, and the glucose oxidase produces hydrogen peroxide -- bleach -- killing the bacteria.

Some specialists are not too optimistic about the benefits of honey in wound management. "It's good with butter and bread -- I don't think honey on a Band-Aid is the answer," says Dr. Adrian Barbul, chair of surgery at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore and professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University.

Los Angeles Times

DRUGS

Medication without needle prick being developed by Hewlett-Packard

The technology behind that inkjet printer on your desk may soon deliver drugs painlessly into your body, potentially replacing the need for traditional hypodermic needles.

Hewlett-Packard Co. said Tuesday that it has signed a deal with an Irish company to develop and sell a new type of drug delivery platform that uses tiny microneedles embedded in patches applied to the skin, not unlike nicotine patches used by smokers who want to quit.

The system is based on the same technology developed by HP to make inkjet printers heat up ink and precisely squirt it onto paper.

Under the agreement, HP will license the technology to Crospon, a small Irish medical device maker. Over the next several years, Crospon will seek government approvals and secure agreements with pharmaceutical companies, with plans to start selling a patchlike drug delivery system in about four years.

Though this isn't the first time HP has licensed its inkjet technology for medical uses -- its technology also is used for inhalers and for applying coatings on medical implants -- it could turn out to be one of the most significant applications.

If HP's idea holds up, 1-inch-square patches containing hundreds of microneedles controlled by a microprocessor could be programmed to painlessly deliver doses of insulin to diabetics or cocktails of multiple drugs to heart patients or AIDS sufferers.

New York Times News Service

DIABETES

Actos pill may lower risk of death, heart attack or stroke, study shows

The widely used diabetes pill Actos appears to lower a patient's chances of death, heart attack or stroke, unlike its beleaguered chief rival, Avandia, a new analysis shows.

However, it also carries an increased risk of nonfatal heart failure, the analysis showed, confirming earlier studies. Heart failure is also a side effect with Avandia. Such problems led one diabetes expert to recommend that both drugs be considered second choices behind older, cheaper pills.

Heart failure "is a significant side effect," said Dr. Alvin Powers, director of Vanderbilt University's diabetes center. "No one would say that you should be on these drugs to prolong your life." He was not involved in the research.

Older drugs are cheaper but can stop working. Doctors may try newer pills instead of having patients resort to insulin injections.

When the older drugs lose effectiveness, Actos "is a drug that clearly I think is preferable," said Dr. A. Michael Lincoff, who co-authored the Actos study with Cleveland Clinic colleague Dr. Steven Nissen.

Their research was paid for with a $25,000 grant from Takeda Global Research & Development, a Deerfield, Ill., division of Actos' maker, Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. of Osaka, Japan.

Associated Press

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